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“Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives”(Mark 14:26 NLT).

March 9, 2018

On the Thursday night before His crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn together after finishing the Passover meal. My first observation is that Jesus sang. O what joy it must have been to hear His voice sing praises to God! How wonderful to have been one of the disciples who joined with Him in harmony. But what hymn did they sing?

The Greek word translated “sang a hymn” is “hymneō” (ὑμνέω). Literally, “They ‘hymned’ as they went out.” We don’t have a verb for “hymning,” but we did borrow the Greek noun, “hymnos,” for our English noun, “hymn.” What is a hymn? The dictionary says, It is “a religious song or poem, typically of praise to God.” Yet, in both Jewish and Christian circles, the word hymn is used in a more precise way.

In their book, “Sing With Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnody,” authors Eskew and McElrath describe a hymn as a kind of poem set to music. They write, “It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it.”

So, the hymn is a unique form of worship music that usually begins as a poem before music is added. It is easy to sing, metrically precise, and sounds as good to the ear with or without accompaniment. It can be read aloud in private devotions, sung alone or together. Hymns are rich with words and doctrines from Scripture.

There are other types of worship songs. The apostle Paul encouraged singing three types in his letter to the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).

So, what hymn did Jesus sing the night before His crucifixion? Jewish tradition called for singing the Paschal Psalms, Psalms 113 through 118, after the Passover meal. These psalms surely fit the definition of a hymn. They also match perfectly with the moment in time that Jesus faced.

Take a moment and read through Psalms 113 through 118. Pay special attention to the words of Psalm 118. Imagine you’re with the disciples as Jesus sings, while walking out into the night through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem and up the Mount of Olives to pray.

“I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (Mark 14:9 NLT).

March 8, 2018

On the Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus and His disciples took a day of rest a short distance from Jerusalem in a town called Bethany. While eating a meal at Simon the leper’s house, a woman anointed Jesus’ head with an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages. This was an incredible gift, so costly that Judas Iscariot was offended by its extravagance. Yet, Jesus rebuked Judas and commended the woman for her gift. Her deed has been remembered to this day, just as Jesus predicted.

This reminds me of a line from a poem by C. T. Studd:
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear” (Mark 13:31 NLT).

March 7, 2018

Jesus answered the disciples’ question concerning the last days by describing the signs leading up to it. He talked about how many things would come to pass, but concluded that His words would never disappear.

When we study, memorize and apply God’s Word, we are investing our lives in that which will never disappear. There is no other investment greater. Even as the ages roll on, we will still be chewing on and growing in our understanding of God’s eternal Word!

“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money” (Mark 12:41 NLT).

March 6, 2018

Jesus sat near the Temple collection box so that He might watch who was giving and how much they were giving. He did this to illustrate a lesson to His disciples. As they witnessed the rich tossing handfuls of coins into the collection box, the heavy coins made a loud metallic sound as they rattled down the trumpet like opening of the Temple treasury. Surely everyone nearby could hear when the rich gave. Then, a poor widow carefully dropped in two small coins. They barely made a sound as they rolled into the treasury.

Christ’s teaching on this scene was that while the rich seemed to be giving a lot, it was in fact only a tiny part of their surplus. But the poor widow quietly gave all that she had.

Yet, there is another lesson here that Christ gave not by words, but by behavior. Christ is interested in our giving. He watches our generosity. He cares about our giving, how much we give and what motivates our giving. Therefore, when we give, we shouldn’t care whether others are watching, only that Jesus is watching.

“Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?” (Mark 12:10 NLT).

March 4, 2018

Jesus questioned whether the religious leaders and teachers had read a particular Scripture from Psalm 118 concerning the stone the builders rejected. Even as they rejected Jesus, His question pointed them to the biblical prophecy which predicted their rejection. Shouldn’t biblical evidence have changed their view of Him? It should have, but it didn’t. Their view of Jesus was not based on a study of the Scriptures, but on their own political interests.

Believers today, especially those that are called to be teachers and preachers of the Bible, must be careful to base their lives, teachings and sermons on the Bible itself. Human opinion has no authority or power. Only God’s Word can be trusted. But it must be read, studied and taught with the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to be understood and applied.

In an age when most of us have a Bible in every room and access to dozens of translations online, what an embarrassing question it would be to hear from the lips of Jesus! “Have you not read the Scriptures?”

‘Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.”‘ (Mark 11:22-23 NLT).

March 3, 2018

On the Monday morning of Passion Week, Jesus cursed a fig tree that was barren of fruit. The next morning as He and the disciples passed by the tree, Peter pointed out that it was “withered from the roots up.” In response, Jesus offered a lesser to greater argument (i.e. “fig tree to mountain”) that the disciples would be able to do even greater miracles if they only had faith.

As we consider this amazing promise from Jesus, let us be careful not to misunderstand the doctrine of faith. First, faith is not some neutral force with a power of its own. No, faith requires an object. And as Jesus taught, the object of biblical faith is God. Notice how Jesus began His teaching, “Have faith in God.” Jesus did not teach us to have faith in faith, but to have faith in God. We can believe something with all of our heart, yet nothing will happen unless God acts. Second, having recognized that biblical faith’s object is God, we must recognize that our requests must be according to God’s will. Consider these two Scriptures:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

So, our faith must be in God whose power and will are paramount. Yet, having understood this, we must not forget the point of Christ’s teaching: Our faith in God can move mountains! Don’t focus on the mountain. Focus on the God who can move the mountain! For it’s not the size of your faith, but the size of your God that counts. As Jesus taught, just a little faith in a great God can move mountains!

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

It is not great faith in God, but faith in a great God that moves mountains!

“They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them” (Mark 10:32 NLT).

March 2, 2018

Jesus led the way up from Jericho to Jerusalem to face his ultimate purpose for coming–– the cross. The walk up from Jericho would take about 6-8 hours as they traveled the Roman road, the ruins of which can still be seen today. It was a steep climb, with an elevation increase of 3400 feet. Jesus walked ahead of his disciples and his other followers, pressing on alone with a look of firm resolve on His face (see Luke 9:51) and a determined step to his gait. Those following him were awestruck and even filled with fear as they tried to keep up with his dogged pace. After some time, Jesus finally took a break and explained once again to his disciples exactly what would happen to him in Jerusalem. From betrayal to torture to death on a Roman cross and rising again three days late, Jesus described in great detail why he was so determined to be in Jerusalem. He was about to complete his mission.

Today, we have this great hope in the One who has gone ahead of us, not only to Jerusalem, but to the Father in heaven on our behalf. As the book of Hebrews says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven, where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us” (Heb. 6:19-20).

“Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him” (Mark 10:21 NLT).

March 1, 2018

When Jesus looked upon the rich man who expressed his desire to be a follower, He loved him. Why did Christ love him? Did the rich man understand that “only God is good?” No, it seemed that he thought he could be good too. Was he able to sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Jesus? No, he went away sad, choosing his possessions over following the Person of Christ. So, what was the trait or condition in this rich man that moved Jesus to look upon him with love? It wasn’t the condition of the rich man, but the unconditional love of Jesus that moved Jesus to love him. As the apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus loves sinners because He is all love and He loves with an unconditional love (“agape”). As the apostle John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

I wonder. Should we love sinners too?

‘But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts.”‘ (Mark 10:5 NLT).

March 1, 2018

Some Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about divorce. He answered with His own question (as was His habit) whether they knew what Moses wrote in the law concerning divorce. They replied that the Mosaic law permitted divorce. Jesus responded that the law was a “concession” to “hard hearts.”

I wonder, wasn’t all the law written because of the hardness of our hearts? For if we could keep the Great Commandment, wouldn’t we have hearts filled with love and therefore no longer require the other laws? Would the one who loves God with all his heart, need to be told not to take the Lord’s name in vain? Would the one who loves their neighbor, need to be instructed not to murder them? If the human heart was not hardened by sin, the written law would have no purpose, for the law of love would already be written on our hearts. Yet, the law was needed because our hearts are hard until the old, sin callous is circumcised by faith in Christ, who is able to give us new and clean hearts filled with love.

“This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7 NLT).

February 27, 2018

Peter couldn’t keep quiet in that holy moment on the mountaintop when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. So, a cloud overshadowed Peter, James and John, and the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”

Peter represents many of us. How often we interrupt holy moments with our own speech, when quiet listening is called for. Even in prayer, we pour out our laundry list of needs to the Father, but forget to be quiet and listen for the voice of His Son. Have you learned to say as young Samuel did, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:7)?